“No.” I’ve been hearing this word come out of my child’s mouth more and more frequently lately. No explanation, no emotion. Just a plain and simple “No”. When this happens I find myself almost frozen. Not quite sure how to respond as she’s provided no explanation that I can combat. Just “no”. My dumbfoundness quickly turns into annoyance. How dare she tell me, her mother, no. Who does she think she is? My strong-willed girl. That’s who.
Up until this point I think we’ve had it fairly easy with her. She never had throw down tantrums in a store (yet). We stick to routines so that she understands and expects for certain things to happen. But now she’s finding her voice and testing her limits. That’s normal right? Don’t we all test our limits? When she tests me, I find myself failing miserably. My anger gets the best of me and I know that’s not how it should be done. I finally sat her down the other night and tried to understand why she’s been acting out, rebelling, and showing poor behavior. That’s when the lightbulb went off.
She’s 3. She doesn’t understand her feelings and behaviors the way an adult does. Often times we hold our children to higher expectations…adult expectations. We think they should be happy all the time when we for sure aren’t. Bad days happen. An adult in a bad mood can request to be left alone. Shouldn’t we show the same respect to our kids? Or at least try to explain to them the feelings they’re having and teach them how to cope.
In our conversation, I asked her why she wasn’t listening to mommy and daddy. Why she didn’t just pick up her pants she left on the floor after going potty. Her response “Gabriel wasn’t sharing the toys.”. I reworded my questions to try to make them easier to understand, but over and over her responses didn’t relate. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My little girl is only 3. While she is definitely capable of cleaning up her toys (with verbal guidance along the way), she’s only a little girl who can’t understand her feelings or remember why she did what she did earlier that day. She struggles to find the words to say because she doesn’t have the vocabulary. Being a toddler has to be one of the most frustrating times in a person’s life.
So here’s what I’ve learned…
My toddler is a toddler. Not an adult. But a little person learning and growing every day.
Toddlers have so many emotions that they don’t understand. It’s our job to try to help them through them through endless hugs, kisses and conversations on their level.
Tantrums and outbursts will happen. Maybe you can avoid them by treating your child like a child and not an adult, but maybe you need to just let them ride too.
Low and slow. Yelling is a natural reaction for some parents (me). But you don’t want your child yelling at you, so why yell at them? Do as I say, not as I do? That’s not really what I want to teach my kids. Speak low and slow and talk to them about why they’re acting like this.
Explain. The other night my daughter protested (obviously) going to bed saying she wasn’t tired. Thirty seconds later she’s yawning. I pointed this out and said see you are tired. Last night going to bed she says again “I’m not tired. I’m not yawning.” I had to laugh, but again a minute later she was yawning. I try to point out key behaviors and actions as indicators.
My strong-willed girl is going to teach me a lot during my life, but I want to be the one to teach her too. To teach her how to be a strong woman with a kind heart. One day we’ll have a good laugh about it all over large glasses of wine and big boxes of tissues while her kids give her a run for it.